Saturday, 1 October 2011

Review - The Woman (2011 - Dir. Lucky McKee)

I know that on this very site I have written about the merits of Letter From An Unknown Woman and Waitress. You may agree that these are very pleasant films, just your cup of tea. You may even decide to look at some other films I like and give them a try too. A word of warning: don't. Not with this one anyway. I like The Woman but it is definitely not pleasant.

The Daily Mail will no doubt go lairy about the brutalization of women within the film and the women in the film are definitely brutalized. It is not misogynistic, but it is certainly about a major misogynist. You know instantly, from the subtle script and acting in his first scene, that the father character, Chris Cleek, is a right Tom and Harry sandwich filling. You just don't quite know how bad he is yet. 

In one of his shooting trips he comes across a woman bathing, dressed in rags. After much leering and peeping through the scope of his rifle he decides to net the grubby lady, take her home to his shed and 'civilize' her. The rest of the family become involved in looking after their new pet. The mother (Angela Bettis) is complicit in the depravities heaped on the woman. You can tell she's not happy with the goings-on but she is too terrified of her husband to do anything about it. His son, Brian (Zach Rand), is a chip off the old block and actively enjoys and participates in the degradation. The most sympathetic character who actually helps The Woman is the daughter, Peggy, excellently portrayed by Lauren Ashley Carter. Without her, who the director obviously wants you to identify with, the film would be harder to defend.

All of the acting is spot on: Sean Bridgers, as the dad, hits just the right tone of psychopath with a hint of black humour thrown in, Bettis is believable as a woman trapped in a dangerous relationship, Rand just oozes pure evil from every pore and then we get to The Woman (Polyanna McIntosh). It's amazing to see the transformation she makes in playing this role. She snarls and bites her way through most of the film, but you also get to see a tender side. The scene where the father feeds her brings a tear to your eye. An acting tour de force.

A mention also has to go to the excellent sound design. A shot gets fired near to The Woman's head and you experience the effects on your hearing too. Other notable highlights are a quality low distorted noise during a finger biting scene and the sound effect when the son is attacking The Woman with a pair of pincers.

If you want a film that is disturbing and depraved (very depraved), but well made with a modicum of intelligence then this could well be for you. There is some foreshadowing of events to come at the start and although there isn't a major twist, clues are spread liberally throughout, hinting at other atrocities that are occurring. Probably worth a second viewing.

If you like this you could also try:
May, Switchblade Romance, Martyrs.

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